State Sponsored Divisive Wall – A Look Back

By HK published on October 1, 2019

 

Since September 28 2018, Kerala has seen a situation never before seen in its history. On this fateful day, the Supreme Court in its wisdom (flawed one according to most) ruled via a constitution bench of five judges, that the Sabarimala shrine should be accessible to women of all ages. There has been a restriction in this temple for as long as anyone can remember, that women in the age group 10 to 50 years (yuvathi/s ) cannot enter it.

As we observe the one year anniversary of this arbitrary and draconian judgement delegitimizing the beliefs and faith of an entire section of the populace, it is time to rewind once more to one of the significant events of the last year which really twisted a knife in the Hindu believer’s heart; the CPI(M) sponsored Vanitha Mathil on New Year’s day 2019. Let us begin with a little context.

It is important to understand a little bit of background about the Sabarimala temple to start with. The deity in this temple is the brahmachari form of Swami Ayyappan. He is not just a brahmachari but a naisthika brahmachari meaning an eternal brahmachari. Accordingly, there are certain rituals and rules prescribed for this conception of the deity and it is as per this that the restriction is applied to yuvathis.
Requirements of naisthikabrahmacharyam mean that:

“… 1) Physical hardship for one’s body and 2) Extreme indriyanigraha or sense control.”

Besides, in the SreeBhootanathaUpakhyanam which lays down the rituals to be followed for the upasana of Ayyappa and recounts his story, Swami Ayyappan himself prescribes to his upasakas or devotees that they should abstain from eight types of union with women. The eight ways are only a simplified form of the teachings of yogashastra where “Ashtavidhamaithunam” are explained as:

  1. Smaranam – (Thinking about ladies)
  2. Keerthanam – (praising qualities of the other sex)
  3. Keli – (Playing amorous games with ladies)
  4. Preshanam- (Eyeing them lustfully)
  5. Guhyabhashanam – (Talking to them surreptitiously in private)
  6. Sankalpam – (wishing or resolving to have sex with them)
  7. Adhyavasayam _ (Approaching them with determination of having sex)
  8. Kriya nirvrithi – (Actual accomplishment of sexual act)

Hence, we can see that the rituals at Sabarimala simply follow the Yogic and even Ayurvedic prescription for brahmacharya.

With it becoming clear that Ayyappan himself wishes this kind of austerity from his devotees, it must be understood that the restriction on yuvathis, helps the devotees maintain the highest level of abstinence during the time of vratam.

If these are the features of the deity at Sabarimala, (who according to Hindu conception of deity is considered as a human living form and who is also granted juristic rights in the Indian constitution) it is only natural that yuvathis whose presence might be reason for distraction from the devotees’ abstinence of the Ashtavidhamaithunam, cannot be allowed into the temple.

The rituals so laid down have been followed rigorously for as long as most people can remember. There is also a reference to this fact in a book written in the beginning of 19th century named Memoir of the Survey of the Travancore and Cochin States which states that yuvathis even then, were prohibited to go to this shrine. Of course, there have been breaking of these rules a few times, especially in the 70s and 80s which caused the last verdict in this case to be pronounced in 1991 but these desecrations are aberrations rather than the norm. The 1991 order explicitly states that yuvathis can be barred from entry and that it is not a matter of gender discrimination to do so.

Besides this, there is a Christian interest in the Sabarimala temple. Christians surround the area around Sabarimala and they have been eyeing the real estate at this place forever. Also, Sabarimala being open to all classes and castes of people without distinction has meant that their conversion agenda has met with limited to non-existent success here.

With this background to the temple, let us look at one of the events in the immediate aftermath of the churning that took place in Kerala since that verdict. Since the Supreme Court ruling of September 28 2018, the state government of Kerala led by CPIM (Communist Party of India – Marxist) showed extreme alacrity to implement the court’s order. This was in gross disregard of the public expression of spontaneous protests that were witnessed in the aftermath of the SC order. Lakhs of devotees mainly women, led spontaneous protest marches in every district of Kerala against this order which they felt violated their religious beliefs. Interestingly, the sole dissenting voice in the constitutional bench of five SC judges was that of Justice Indu Malhotra, the only woman judge in the bench. However, the state government, taking absolutely no cognisance of the prevalent mood of the stakeholders of the temple, rushed to try and get yuvathis into the temple when it opened for monthly pooja in October. What is noticeable in the efforts of the government was that the only women who were willing to attempt the break in were feminist activists or left leaning journalists who were hell bent on proving a point. No genuine woman devotee, even wives or daughters of the Communist party ministers or cadres were willing to break the tradition. The attempts to breach the tradition were rebuffed by Hindus keeping watch over the temple. Thus, desecration was resisted in October and even in November when the temple opened for a day. Thereafter, when the temple opened for the annual Mandalam season in December, attempts were continuously made to breach the rules with active support from the state government and the police machinery.

The Vanitha Mathil

The state government seeing the spirited and defiant resistance from the Hindus was determined to make a statement with a show of strength. Hence, in December it was announced that on New Year’s Day 2019, the government will organise a “Vanitha Mathil” or a “Women Wall” in order to show the renaissance of women in CPIM led Kerala. It was envisaged that women will form a human chain from the northernmost part of Kerala to the southernmost part. This wall would be formed along the arterial highways of the state.

There was much hype and build up to this “wall” with the state spending large amounts from the public exchequer in splashing ads and doing a marketing pitch for this event. Not to be outdone, the Sabarimala Karma Samiti formed to safeguard the sanctity of the temple gave a call to the devotees to participate in an Ayyappa Jyoti on the 26th of December. The event was envisaged as a lining of devotees along the arterial roads of the state holding a lamp and lighting it as dusk fell on the state. This call attracted amazing response with devotees spontaneously coming out to line the streets at the designated time. It was an organic outpouring of support and devotion from the Hindu community traumatised beyond comprehension, by the state government’s insensitivity to their concerns. There was no other mobilisation except the call from the Karma Samiti to come and attend and the ordinary devotee, both men and women rose to the occasion. The event was an unprecedented resounding success as is evidenced by the following photos and videos.

 

However, this spontaneous outpouring was largely given a miss by pliant media both in the state and at the centre. It was reported here and there but by and large, this event was ignored as if it didn’t happen.

All noise began to rise around the Vanitha Mathil on the 1st. There were many allegations that women especially those in government employment or recipients of government doles like the MREGA scheme etc were coerced into participating in this event. Huge state machinery was thrust into service and the event was conducted on 1st as decided. One does not know about the success of the event though the communist government claims huge success. Be that as it may, the photos from the event were very revealing. Besides, there was a very communal call from the church also, which said they would be sending one lakh women from the church to participate in this Mathil. What was the interest of the church in standing for renaissance of women when they can’t even stand up for their own beleaguered nuns who are reeling in under the exploitation in convents and subjected to the worst sexual excesses by supposed men of god, the bishops and pastors who rule over them? Isn’t the system of nuns in churches the same as the devadasi system of Hindus that was banned long ago? Aren’t they also women of god just like the devadasis were? As women of god, aren’t the nuns also going through the same sexual exploitation as the devadasis were? Instead of condemning Bishop Franco Mulakkal who was accused of raping a nun (sordid case of exploitation of nuns can be read in this very revealing report from Associated Press), the church community has assiduously shielded him from censure and strangely laid the blame at the doorstep of the nun who reported him. This is the same church which was sending 1 lakh women to build a renaissance wall. Is there anything more sinister and contradictory than this?

In the photos that came out, one could see large participation from burqa clad Muslim women. Is the burqa a symbol of renaissance? The burqa is a symbol of radical Islam. It had no presence in Kerala even 10 years ago but since the radical and wahabi strain of Islam has gained traction, the shapeless gunny bag has made its appearance all over the state. Not even sparing little children, children as young as 3 and 4 are put into a scarf that hides their heads and faces. Their idea of renaissance was to show up in that regressive attire. And the communist party that was aggressively mocking and demanding that Hindu women break the tradition at Sabarimala, never even thought it necessary to demand that Muslim women remove their burqa at least for the wall. They wouldn’t dare to make this demand because they know very well that if such a demand was made of Muslim women, most would just stay away causing even wider cracks in the wall than was visible.

When followers of Semitic religions stood in this “wall” demanding changes in rituals in Sabarimala, and asking for the right to worship the deity who has sworn to eternal brahmacharya, they should have reflected upon whether they weren’t giving legitimacy to a god other than theirs. Are their religions not based on the belief that there is no god but theirs? If they were to follow the tenets of their religion in letter and spirit, wouldn’t Sabarimala be just a building within which is housed a statue with no power at all? In that case, isn’t it also true that if the temple was simply a building with a lifeless statue, it should not matter to the adherents of these religions whether rituals took place in the temple or not, leave alone demand for changes in them?

For Muslims, it is “shirk” to believe in the existence of gods other than theirs and furthermore giving legitimacy to murti worship is the worst kind of shirk. Hence, weren’t they in gross violation of their religion’s tenets by demanding the admission of women into a temple where god is worshipped in murti form? Isn’t it an irony that the women who stood in the mathil demanding entry of women into Sabarimala temple, don’t want the same women to enter the vavar mosque on the way to Sabarimala where men stop to worship vavar swami, the Muslim friend of Ayyappan according to legend?This is because women are not allowed into mosques as a practice! This is the most hypocritical posturing by women posing as symbols of renaissance, and one has to wonder about their real interest in women renaissance.

Many women when asked why they were participating in the event were clueless. Many even said that their husbands had ordered them to participate. So much for women renaissance and rebirth. Besides, the wall had holes as big as one or two kilometres in many places with no women available to fill the spaces at many locations. The photos and videos tell their own story.

 

 

 

The event was sold to women as building a wall for renaissance. However, one of the videos above show how it was used to whip up sentiment against the customs at Sabarimala. The woman who made the video uses the complete distorted view that is peddled by feminists and CPIM cadres that the restriction on yuvathis at Sabarimala is because they are considered impure because of menstruation. The restriction as explained at the beginning of the article has only incidental connection with menstruation. The said feminists when fighting supposed patriarchy and oppression think of course that the burqa is a symbol of liberation and empowerment.

In actuality, Muslim women are not allowed to do namaz when they are menstruating because they are considered to be impure and Christian women are not supposed to participate in mass when menstruating for the same reason. So, when these restrictions exist in every religion, singling out only Hinduism for reform is sinister. Especially so when the issue is not even menstruation in Sabarimala.

The worst duplicity was that after misleading women of Kerala that the wall was to build a new renaissance, the state government smuggled into the temple, two yuvathis that very night following the Vanitha Mathil event. They successfully managed to divert attention of the public to the wall while all the time plotting to desecrate the temple. The women, especially Hindu women who woke up the next day were aghast to see the reports in TV channels that the state government had duped them all. Pushed to the wall, the Hindu devotees came out to streets in thousands to express their anger and protest. The state govt with the active support of the police force, Marxist cadres and jihadi organizations, tried to crush them in whatever way possible. Thousands of devotees including women were arrested from their homes and hundreds of false police cases were slapped on them. When this wholesale violation of human rights of ordinary people was going on, the whole communist faction among journalists, who are the first to raise their voice in frenzied protest against violation of freedom of expression and human rights of their own people, acted in one voice running continuous misinformation campaign against the devotees to tarnish them.

The SNDP chief Vellapally Natesan’s wife in fact came out against the communist government and particularly the CM Pinarayi Vijayan and said that the SNDP cadres were misled about the purpose of the wall. She said in an interview to an English media house that they were extremely pained and shocked to know that the wall was a cover for the CM to push his agenda of taking yuvathis to the temple. The truth of the matter though is that her husband Shri. Vellapally Natesan was coerced into this event by the government using blackmailing. He is a suspect in two criminal cases and the fascist government of Pinarayi just tied his hands by threatening him with action if he didn’t give support to the mathil event. Shri. Natesan is the leader of the largest Hindu community in Kerala, the Ezhavas who are by and large devout Hindus,  and for retaining the temple customs. The bullying from the fascist CM was so overpowering that Natesan who usually attends the concluding ceremony of the Sivagiri pilgrimage, stayed away from it as it fell on the same day as the mathil event.

All these facts, the forced participation of thousands of poor ignorant village women, participation of followers of organized religions under the strict instructions of their radicalized leaders with political and religious motivation, huge cracks in the wall even in communist party strongholds in northern Kerala, and the many women participants who openly reiterated their opposition in admitting yuvathis at Sabarimala showed that, this much hyped about renaissance wall was a big flop and an epitome of hypocrisy. 

The communist CM of Kerala acted without an iota of sensitivity to the feelings of millions of Hindus especially women who did not want the so called empowerment that the Supreme Court had given them. In fact, the CM has shown himself to be extremely patriarchal and fascist by insisting on hurting grievously the beliefs of millions. Only time will tell what the consequences of his duplicity will be. But the Vanitha Mathil that he built will always be etched in the mind of every believing Hindu woman as a symbol of treachery and duplicity. A CM they had elected to look after their well being had arbitrarily and violently stepped on their beliefs and actually ground them to dust under his fascist dictatorship.

 

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